THE PLUG IS PULLED

One night, thousands of fans waited outside a downtown department store for an hour in below-zero weather to await his appearance for an autographing session. Appearing with him was Gary Fencik, then in his tenth year as one of the great Bear defensive backs of all time. But every one of the fans' questions was directed at "The Fridge." They didn't seem to know who Fencik was.

After the season was over, a promoter signed "The Fridge" up for a tag-team-wrestling match in Rosemont Horizon arena. They sold so many tickets that it was necessary to pipe video of the event into neighborhood theatres, which also sold out.

I went to the wrestling match. Consider this one fact and judge for yourself the level of seriousness: G. Gordon Liddy was an honorary judge. Some of the other wrestlers on the card had names like Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, Big John Studd and the Iron Sheik. Mr. T, then a television celebrity, appeared in a three-round boxing bout which one critic called the worst boxing event ever held in North America.

The highlight of the night came in the free-for-all when a wrestler named Tony Atlas attempted to lift up "The Fridge" and toss him over the ropes. Atlas did not succeed. "The Fridge" was too heavy, and Atlas finally dropped unceremoniously to the canvas.

Maybe that was the night Ditka decided that "The Fridge" ought to lose some weight. Whatever, from then on, every time Perry's name appeared in the paper, it was about a battle with Ditka over excessive weight. It seemed like Ditka was suspending "The Fridge" for weight problems every season. Nobody ever fully explained why his days as a running back and wide receiver were over. "The Fridge" lasted with the Bears nine years. It was only in that first one that he had any real fun. Toward the end, they said he was turning mean and sullen. He didn't want to talk to anyone anymore.

And the Bears cut him. They paid him off and said goodbye. A few days later, "The Fridge" was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. But, hell, what's in Philadelphia? It's even worse than being hired by our very own Phoenix Cardinals.

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